Wildlife

For some birds, family matters.
July 7, 2014 07:36 AM - Alex Peel, Planet Earth online

Extraordinary co-operation by sociable weavers, which work together to build the largest nests in the world, is motivated by family ties, say scientists. New research, published in Ecology Letters, says the birds, which are found throughout southern Africa, are more likely to maintain the communal part of the nest if they have relatives living nearby.

Ocean health depends more on whales than we thought
July 4, 2014 06:51 AM - University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Baleen and sperm whales, known collectively as the great whales, include the largest animals in the history of life on Earth. Though large in size, whales have long been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the ocean, and the focus of much marine ecological research has been on smaller organisms, such as algae and planktonic animals. While these small organisms are essential to life in the sea, they are not the whole story. As great whales recover from centuries of overhunting, scientists are beginning to appreciate their roles as ecosystem engineers of the ocean.

Where's the Plastic?
July 3, 2014 08:49 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

According to a new study, 99% of plastic waste that enters the ocean cannot be located. While initially hearing that there's less plastic in the ocean than we believed sounds like great news, it's actually a frightening prospect. After all, if the plastic isn't in the ocean ... where is it going?! A team from the University of Western Australia spent a couple of years sailing around the world in five vessels hoping to accurately record just how much plastic is actually in the ocean. Although researchers expected to discover millions of tons, they were surprised to calculate that they only calculated about 40,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface.

Small Elephant-Relative Spotted in Namibia
July 2, 2014 11:35 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Forget marsupials, the world's strangest group of mammals are actually those in the Afrotheria order. This superorder of mammals contains a motley crew that at first glance seems to have nothing in common: from the biggest land animals on the planet—elephant—to tiny, rodent sized mammals such as tenrecs, hyraxes, golden moles, and sengis. But there's more: the group even includes marine mammals, such as dugongs and manatees. Finally, they also include as a member the most evolutionary-distinct mammal on the planet: the aardvark. While these species may seem entirely unrelated—and many were long shuffled into other groups—decades of genetic and morphological research now point to them all springing from the same tree. Last week, though, scientists announced the newest, and arguably cutest, member of Atrotheria: the Etendeka round-eared sengi. Described in the most recent edition of the Journal of Mammology, the Etendeka round-eared sengi (Macroscelides micus) was discovered in the northwest corner of Namibia.

World’s Protected Areas Not Protecting Biodiversity
June 30, 2014 02:53 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Stanford University, BirdLife International, the International Union for Nature Conservation, and other organizations have warned that the world's protected areas are not safeguarding most of the world's imperilled biodiversity, and clear changes need to be made on how nations undertake future land protection if wildlife is going to be saved. These findings come at a time when countries are working toward what could become the biggest expansion of protected areas in history. The authors of the new study found that 85 percent of world's 4,118 threatened mammals, birds, and amphibian species are not adequately protected in existing national parks, and are therefore vulnerable to extinction in the near term. The new study appears in the esteemed international journal PLOS Biology.

Endangered Species Act may be significantly weakened by new policy
June 28, 2014 07:52 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity will file a legal challenge to an Obama administration policy, finalized today, that severely limits when a species qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act - a change that ignores both broad legal precedent and congressional intent. Under the Act a species qualifies for protection when it is "in danger of extinction in all or a significant of portion of its range." Both Congress and the courts have explained that the "significant portion of range" provision is vital for important conservation because it allows federal wildlife agencies to protect species before they are at risk of going extinct globally. But the newly finalized policy sharply restricts the use of this part of the Act, defining "significant" to mean that only when the loss of a part of a species' range threatens the survival of the whole species would wildlife agencies protect that species under the Act.

Farmed fish, the dark side
June 27, 2014 06:24 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

It seems as more and more of the fish available to us in the supermarket and in restaurants is farmed. Is this good or bad? Probably a bit of both. Raising fish in fish farms doesn't impact the wild fish to any great extent, but fish farms must be well situated, and well run to prevent problems. They are not natural ecosystems! Aquaculture has become a booming industry in Chile, with salmon and other fish farmed in floating enclosures along the South Pacific coast. But as farmers densely pack these pens to meet demand, diseases can easily pass between fish — for example, an outbreak of infectious salmon anemia that emerged in 2007 caused the deaths of more than a million fish and threatened to cripple the industry. And unsustainable aquaculture methods can have a wider impact, spreading disease to the world’s already vulnerable ocean fisheries and contaminating the environment.

Young gorillas caught dismantling poachers' snares
June 24, 2014 08:00 AM - Danielle Radin, The Ecologist

In the wild, gorillas are turning into primitive engineers as the newest field findings show that some of these large primates have taught themselves how to dismantle poaching traps in Africa. "It's just amazing", says Dr. Patricia Wright, a Primatologist at Stony Brook University in New York with over 27 years anthopological experience. "One of the most extraordinary things that has just happened is that very young gorillas, that are just four years old, have started to take apart traps and snares so that poachers can't catch gorillas."

Stones in bird baths are a GOOD idea!
June 22, 2014 10:19 AM - Laura Simpson, Care2

Turns out that stones in the bird bath are more than just an aesthetic element. In fact, they may even save a life. "This morning a little bird was flapping his wings frantically in the bird bath," said Crystal Carvotta-Brown, a cat rescue volunteer in Massachusetts. "At first I thought he was just cleaning his feathers but then I realized that he was in distress." Crystal, an avid community organizer who has helped place hundreds of throw-away cats, was quick to take action when she sensed danger.

New study challenges theory that emperor penguins return to same area each year
June 20, 2014 02:09 PM - Allison Winter, ENN

Philopatry is the tendency of an organism to stay in, or return to its home area. Many animal species are considered philopatric because they often return to their birthplace year after year to breed. Revisiting the same site is advantageous because nests and courtship areas have already been established while competition from other animals is largely non-existent due to territoriality. Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins were a prime example of this phenomenon, however a new study shows that this species may be adapting to changing environments and may not necessarily be faithful to previous nesting locations.

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